Guardians prospect shocked by Francona invite

7:30 PM UTC

This story was excerpted from Mandy Bell’s Guardians Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

Petey Halpin had no idea why he was being called out of Minor League camp to sit in on the Guardians’ morning meeting. Halpin is a 20-year-old outfielder who was selected in the third round (No. 95 overall) in the 2020 MLB Draft. He ranks No. 17 on Cleveland’s Top 30 Prospects list, according to MLB Pipeline, but Halpin has just two seasons in the lower levels of the club’s farm system under his belt.

As excited as the Guardians are for his future, he still has some time before he’s part of their group. So, how did he get into their morning clubhouse meeting last weekend? Cleveland manager Terry Francona sent over a request to the Minor League side to have the young outfielder sit in on his meeting. Every player on the 40-man roster and those with invitations to big league camp gathered in the clubhouse, ready for Francona to address them ahead of another day of practice and Cactus League games — just as he always does.

Halpin was confused. He poked his head in and tried to act as if he belonged.

“I was just trying to be quiet and was making sure I wasn’t in anyone’s seat,” Halpin said.

But Halpin couldn’t hide. Francona broke into his morning ritual of going through the daily plan before reflecting on the previous day’s game. The Guardians use this time as a bonding experience, and Francona names an MVP from the last game and rewards him with $50.

This is when it was clear why Halpin was called into the room.

During Spring Training games, especially in the early weeks of camp, teams use their regular players during just the first few innings, allowing them to ease their way back into the daily grind.

For the late innings, young Minor League players who aren’t in Major League camp come over and get a chance to play. Halpin has been able to enjoy that experience a couple of times.

Last week, against the Brewers at Goodyear Ballpark, Halpin hit a three-run double in front of what he hopes to be his future big league coaching staff. Because of that swing, Francona was ready to reward him.

Francona mentioned the double, named Halpin the MVP of the game and, suddenly, all eyes were on Halpin.

“The guys were joking around, chanting, ‘Speech,'” Halpin said, with a smirk. “Nothing came out of that. I just said thank you, shook his hand and sat back down.”

It’s a simple gesture. Most guys in that room would allow that moment to escape their memories. For Halpin, the experience was much more.

Halpin had his parents in the crowd to witness his big hit against the Brewers. His family grew up rooting for the Giants and for his parents to see him in the dugout when Madison Bumgarner was on the mound for the D-backs was surreal. And each opportunity he’s had to be in Cleveland’s dugout, Halpin has tried to absorb everything he can.

“It’s really cool,” Halpin said of playing with the big league team. “Just to learn and, like, be around the guys and see how they go about their day, about their job and how they play, and how they talk to each other. I think it makes me really appreciative to what could come. They’re at a spot that I want to be at, so you just take the opportunity to learn and soak it all in.”

In his limited time, Halpin already got a tip from Francona that he’ll carry with him.

“I had a single and I rounded the base, and I turned back in and my head kind of went down,” Halpin said. “I didn’t even notice my head went down. He pulled me off to the side and gave me that learning experience. It’s really cool to see how they look at the game through their lens.”

Cactus League games don’t mean much to many, but for a High-A player such as Halpin, it’s a reminder that his ultimate goal is more than attainable.

“It’s a really good opportunity,” Halpin said. “It makes the Minor League day camps a little bit easier knowing that that’s possible.”